Q: I get so frustrated watching other families who seem to be perfect. They're like the old show "The Brady Bunch" -- the parents are loving, the kids always seem happy, and I never hear of any real problems. Am I just missing something?
Jim: We've all looked at co-workers, people at church or friends on social media and thought, "Wow, that family has got life all figured out." However, the truth is they don't.
We all wear a public face that shows us in our best and happiest times. The rest we keep private. My wife and I don't snap pictures of our kids when they bring home a bad grade from school. We don't pose for selfies when we lose our patience or when we're arguing with one another. I doubt you record (much less post/share) those less-than-perfect moments, either. And neither do your family and friends.
Many of those smiling children on Facebook and Instagram probably talk back to their parents or lie to get out of trouble. And I'm sure those moms and dads snap at their kids from time to time instead of patiently listening. That perfect meal recipe probably took several tries before it was post-worthy, and those folks might even have weeds in their lawn.
Perfect families don't exist. And if they did, I'm certainly not the guy who could tell you how to become one. But you and I are both fortunate because the goal isn't perfection. It's a family that is healthy and strong. That means Mom, Dad and the kids love each other and handle their problems with patience and respect. Anybody can work toward that. And we have lots of resources to help you do it at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My son (age 9) has a really hard time dealing with new situations. Whether it's starting a new school year or going off to summer camp, new people and places always make him uneasy. How can I help him handle new things better?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: New social situations tend to make some children apprehensive, especially if they're filtering the situation through a negative lens. Children need three foundational things to help them face new situations with a more positive viewpoint:
-- They need to belong. Many children spend a lot of emotional energy trying to fit in with a certain group of kids because they think they'll gain a sense of belonging. But genuine belonging means being a part of something, not just doing things to fit in. Talk with your child about his insecurities and about other kids' opinions of what's "cool" and what's not. Help him recognize that most of his peers also carry an "emotional backpack" full of insecurities. Guide him in discovering places where he could feel -- or already feels -- a sense of belonging even with his own "baggage." Remind him of the safety that begins from belonging within your family.
-- They need to feel they have worth. Many kids who are anxious in new situations are afraid of messing up or being ridiculed. They dread having their imperfections being exposed or not having control. Affirm your son's worth even with his unique imperfections. He is a one-of-a-kind, worthwhile person to know.
-- They need to feel that they're good at something. We all crave the confidence that comes from knowing we excel at something. I've dealt with several kids in my private practice who have abilities they don't think their peers or friends value. Guide your child through an honest inventory of his skills and talents. Encourage him to continue discovering what he's good at or could be good at with effort. And show him why those things matter.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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